Acts 16 – 2019-09-20
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- CHAPTER 16 COMMENTARY
Background: This was Paul’s second missionary journey which lasted for about three years. This time, Paul and Silas set out by land, rather than by sea, traveling the Roman road. Macedonia was a Roman province and Philippi was its key colony, which means its constitution was patterned after that of Rome. This was Paul’s first attempt to evangelize to the Romans.
v.6: “The regions of Phrygia and Galatia included much of modern-day Turkey, yet God, for reasons known only to him, did not allow the missionaries to go into the province of Asia at that time. ‘Asia’ referred not to the continent, but rather to the Roman province that was the western part of Asia Minor. Ephesus probably would have been the leading city in this region.”
“God’s strange providence in the way he prohibited Paul from going to places where he wanted to go shows us that, while it is right for humans to plan and have visions, those plans must be submitted to the will of God and be open to his veto. Proverbs 16:9 says, ‘In his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps.’ Paul submitted to God’s will and was also receptive to his voice. Though he had his plans, he always presented them to God, and God was able to get through to him with his will. We should be careful about pushing through projects we have reservations about. After all, we will be unable to give our heart and soul to such projects. It is better then to take the time to grapple with God to find out what his will is.” 
“They were forbidden at this time to preach the Gospel in Asia… [perhaps] because the people were not yet prepared to receive it, as they were afterwards (Ch. 19:10), when all those who dwelt in Asia heard the word of the Lord.” 
v.13: “Though ‘place of prayer’ was used in those days for synagogues, this must have been simply a place where people met to worship God. It was necessary to have ten men to organize a synagogue, but only women were gathered here. Being by a river facilitated any ceremonial washing rituals.”
“Paul’s first evangelistic contact in Macedonia was with a small group of women. Paul never allowed gender or cultural differences to keep him from preaching the gospel. In the early church, God often worked in and through women.” 
v.14: Thyatira, the city where Lydia was from, was a great way from Philippi. Perhaps marriage or business brought her to that city, but one should acknowledge God’s providence at work here: to bring Lydia from Thyatira to Philippi so that she can meet Paul and hear the Gospel. Note that through Lydia, her entire household was baptized.
“Her immediate reaction was to offer the hospitality of her house to Paul and his friends. When Paul is describing the Christian character he says that the Christian should be ‘given to hospitality (Romans 12:13). When Peter is urging Christian duty upon his converts he tells them, ‘Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling.’ A Christian home is one with an ever-open door.” 
v.18: “The girl is said to have ‘a spirit by which she predicted the future.’ Though what she proclaimed affirmed Paul’s ministry, he was ‘troubled’ by it. (diaponeomai, v.18, which means “to be strongly irked or provoked at something or someone.”). Why Paul delayed responding for a few days remains a mystery. But when he did attend to it, the power of God overcame the demoniac hold over the girl’s life. The employers of the girl must have known that she was in a miserable state and that what Paul had done for her was, in effect, a deliverance from bondage. But they had lost a means of income, so they opposed Paul. Yet, they couched their opposition in noble terms, stating that the stability of the city was at stake because Paul and his team were ‘advocating customs unlawful for us Romans to accept or practice.’ Paul was motivated by such a deep love for people that he could not endure the pain seeing this girl under the grip of deception.”
vv.19-21: “The charge laid was that Paul and Silas were advocating a religio illicita and thus disturbing the Pax Romana. But the charge, being couched in terms that appealed to the latent anti-Semitism of the people (‘these men are Jews’) and their racial pride (‘us Romans’), ignited the flames of bigotry and prevented any dispassionate discussion of the issues.
Many have asked why only Paul and Silas were singled out for persecution, with Timothy and Luke left free. Of course, Paul and Silas were the leaders of the missionary party and therefore most open to attack. But we must also remember that Paul and Silas were Jews and probably looked very much like Jews (cf. comments on 14:3 on the tradition of Paul’s appearance). Timothy and Luke, however, being respectively half-Jewish and fully Gentile (cf. Col 4:14, where Luke is grouped by Paul with his Gentile friends), probably looked Greek in both their features and their dress and therefore were left alone. Anti-Semitism lay very near the surface throughout the Roman Empire.”
vv.27-28: “When the awakened jailer saw the doors open, he surmised the worst. In Roman law a guard who allowed his prisoner to escape was liable to the same penalty the prisoner would have suffered (Code of Justinian 9.4.4). Thus the jailer drew his sword to kill himself, believing the prisoners had all escaped. But Paul saw him in the doorway and shouted out from within the prison, ‘Don’t harm yourself We are all here!’”
v.34: “Luke’s report of joy over salvation in the home of the jailer is evidence of one of the most important themes in his writings. Nearly ¼ percent of words of joy in the New Testament appear in Gospel of Luke (53) and Acts (24). It is not surprising then, that the fellowship of the first Christian community was characterized by ‘unaffected joy.’ (Acts 2:46).”
v.37: “Was Paul being petty? Why did Paul make the magistrates escort him personally out of prison? His motive may have been to gain respect and some measure of protection from the government officials for the Christians who would remain in the city. Having treated him shamefully the day before, the city official might be more prone to mistreat the church in the future if they succeeded in hustling Paul out of town. Paul didn’t want this kind of menacing precedent to go unchallenged. In addition, Paul may have been setting the stage to return someday. ”
 Acts (The Life Application New Testament Commentary, Wheaton, IL: Tyndale, 1994) 529.
Ajith Fernando, Acts (The NIV Application Commentary Series, Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1998) 436.
Matthew Henry, Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible, (Peabody,MA: Hendrickson Publisher, 1997) 2134.
Ajith Fernando, Acts (The NIV Application Commentary Series, Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1998) 443.
Acts (The Life Application New Testament Commentary, Wheaton, IL: Tyndale, 1994) 530-531.
William Barclay, The Acts of the Apostles, (Daily Study Bible Series, Rev. ed. Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1976) 123.
Ajith Fernando, Acts (The NIV Application Commentary Series, Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1998),444,449, 454.
 Frank E. Gaebelein, Gen. Ed. Expositor’s Bible Commentary CD, (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1992) notes for vv.19-21.
 Frank E. Gaebelein, Gen. Ed. Expositor’s Bible Commentary CD, (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1992) notes for vv.25-28.
Ajith Fernando, Acts (The NIV Application Commentary Series, Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1998) 450.
 Quest Study Bible, study notes (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1994) 1531.
Acts 16:1-15 (ESV)
1 Paul came also to Derbe and to Lystra. A disciple was there, named Timothy, the son of a Jewish woman who was a believer, but his father was a Greek. 2 He was well spoken of by the brothers at Lystra and Iconium. 3 Paul wanted Timothy to accompany him, and he took him and circumcised him because of the Jews who were in those places, for they all knew that his father was a Greek. 4 As they went on their way through the cities, they delivered to them for observance the decisions that had been reached by the apostles and elders who were in Jerusalem. 5 So the churches were strengthened in the faith, and they increased in numbers daily.
6 And they went through the region of Phrygia and Galatia, having been forbidden by the Holy Spirit to speak the word in Asia. 7 And when they had come up to Mysia, they attempted to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus did not allow them. 8 So, passing by Mysia, they went down to Troas. 9 And a vision appeared to Paul in the night: a man of Macedonia was standing there, urging him and saying, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” 10 And when Paul had seen the vision, immediately we sought to go on into Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them.
11 So, setting sail from Troas, we made a direct voyage to Samothrace, and the following day to Neapolis, 12 and from there to Philippi, which is a leading city of the district of Macedonia and a Roman colony. We remained in this city some days. 13 And on the Sabbath day we went outside the gate to the riverside, where we supposed there was a place of prayer, and we sat down and spoke to the women who had come together. 14 One who heard us was a woman named Lydia, from the city of Thyatira, a seller of purple goods, who was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what was said by Paul. 15 And after she was baptized, and her household as well, she urged us, saying, “If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come to my house and stay.” And she prevailed upon us.
- Acts 16:1-15
- What is the wisdom behind Paul’s decision in v. 3?
- Think about the topic of God’s leading as related in this passage. What did being led by God look like for Paul and his companions? How does this match our notion of what it looks like to be led by God?
- In what ways was Lydia ready to receive salvation?
- What can I learn about the fruit of salvation from Lydia’s response in v. 15?